Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $750,000)
Allegheny County will prevent and address crisis in individuals in need of mental health(MH) and/or substance use disorder(SUD) supports through the planning and implementation of a Pre-arraignment Diversion Program. The Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) will lead this project in close coordination with the Office of Public Defender (OPD). Partners are committed to ensuring that individuals who can be released from custody at their first appearance--the preliminary arraignment before a magisterial judge--and can safely remain in the community with health and human service supports have the opportunity to do so.
Allegheny County will develop a cross-system Planning/Implementation Team that will collaborate to develop the program structure, workflow, and information sharing protocols prior to implementation. Planning will occur over the first six months, with recruitment for program staff beginning early on. The team will continue to meet throughout implementation to monitor progress and outcomes.
The program will be staffed by diversion coordinators (DC) who will work onsite at the ACJ alongside jail intake staff to review all new arrests and coordinate with the OPD and health and human service providers in the community to prepare an expedited plan, when appropriate, that can be presented at arraignment to advocate for immediate release from custody to the community. The DCs will work with jail staff to screen all new arrests for suicide, MH, SUD, and physical health concerns using validated tools. They will also screen for active 302 warrants and active services. DCs will create a diversion plan that may include referring/reconnecting newly arrested individuals with appropriate community-based human services, including shelter, treatment, and peers when appropriate. The DCs will then coordinate with the OPD to ensure that the plan is presented at this first appearance before a magisterial district judge, when initial bail decisions are made.
Anticipated outcomes of this project include: reduced jail population; reduced negative outcomes associated with incarceration (such as job loss, housing loss); fewer critical cases entering the jail, reducing risk of death or serious medical emergency, as well as reducing burden on jail staff; increased continuity of care and connection treatment; reduced SUD related deaths and overdoses in justice involved individuals; increased engagement in Medication Assisted Treatment for justice involved individuals; and, reduced racial disparities.